For his new appointment, Kevin G. McCracken traded the subartic for the subtropics.
(January 14, 2014) – Evolutionary geneticist Kevin G. McCracken has been named the inaugural James A. Kushlan Chair in Waterbird Biology and Conservation at the University of Miami.
McCracken, formerly a professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, will serve a dual appointment as associate professor in the Department of Biology at the College of Arts and Sciences and in the Division of Marine Biology and Fisheries at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. He was selected via a months-long international search, and joined the UM faculty in January 2014.
McCracken has published more than 75 journal articles and has received National Science Foundation grants and Fulbright scholarships to study molecular mechanisms of hypoxia resistance in high-altitude waterbirds in the South American Andes. The cause of “altitude sickness” in humans, hypoxia occurs when the body or a part of the body is deprived of oxygen.
“Dr. McCracken’s appointment as the first James A. Kushlan Chair in Waterbird Biology and Conservation marks a significant advancement in UM’s long-time leadership in ornithology and science in the tropics,” said Leonidas G. Bachas, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “His exemplary work on waterbirds complements our efforts in interdisciplinary science research.”
“The James A. Kushlan Chair position provides a great opportunity for the Rosenstiel School to develop research and education programs in waterbird biology, an expertise the school lacked and is yet a very important aspect of the marine ecosystem,” said Roni Avissar, dean of the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. ”We are excited that Dr. McCracken is joining our faculty.”
McCracken’s research interests lie at the intersection of population biology, genomics, and physiological genetics. He also has performed many other studies focusing on waterbirds as intercontinental carriers for pathogens, such as influenza, and on the systematics of waterbirds, including ducks and herons.
“I was drawn to the University of Miami by its reputation, proximity to my study sites in Latin America and history of tropical biology research in places like the Everglades, which abound with all kinds of different waterbird species,” McCracken said. “After fourteen years in the subarctic, my family and I are really looking forward to the adventure and geographical, cultural, and biological contrast of living in the subtropics in one of the world’s most dynamic and greatest cities.”
The James A. Kushlan Chair in Waterbird Biology and Conservation was established in 2012 through a generous endowment from three-time University of Miami alumnus Dr. James A. Kushlan, during the University’s Momentum2 campaign. A writer, scientist, educator, and conservationist, Kushlan is recognized for his expertise in the biology and conservation of waterbirds and wetlands and in the strategic management of not-for-profit conservation and educational organizations.
He serves as co-chair for the College of Arts and Sciences’ Momentum2 campaign and as member of the college’s visiting committee. He also serves on the boards of the Everglades Foundation, Zoo Miami Zoological Society of Florida, History Miami, and Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.